My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Doug Stone – ‘Doug Stone’

dougstoneReleased towards the end of the New Traditionalist movement, Doug Stone’s eponymous debut is his best and most traditional album. The Epic album was produced by Doug Johnson and featured top-notch songs and an impressive roster of musicians including Mark O’Connor, Mac McAnally, and Paul Franklin. The album’s first single was the superb country weeper “I’d Be Better Off (In A Pine Box)”, an indulgent tale of self-pity written by Johnny MacRae and Steve Clark. Songs like this are the reason many people dislike country music, but they are also the reason so many of us love it so passionately. Stone knocked it out of the park on his first try; although he released many songs after this that I thoroughly enjoyed, nothing ever matched this masterpiece. It peaked at #4 but deserved to go to #1, and I’ve often thought it might have become a top charter if it had been held back and released after Stone had built up some name recognition, instead of being the first out of the box. But chart position aside, it’s a great record.

The rest of the album is almost as good. Doug’s follow-up single “Fourteen Minutes Old” is another break-up song despite its uptempo arrangement. Written by Dennis Knutson and A.L. “Doodle” Owens, it topped out at #6. The Harlan Howard tune “These Lips Don’t Know How To Say Goodbye”, another favorite of mine, fared slightly better by reaching #5. Stone finally reached #1 with the album’s fourth and final single, “In A Different Light”, which was written by the great Bob McDill along with Dickey Lee and Bucky Jones. It is the album’s least traditional song, but its biggest hit, perhaps foreshadowing country music’s imminent shift back to a more pop-oriented sound. It also allowed Stone to showcase his skills as a balladeer and it cast the template for many of his future hits.

I’ve often second-guessed record label choices for singles, but in the case of this album I think that Epic got it right. The album’s remaining songs are good, but not as strong as the ones sent to radio. “Turn This Thing Around” is not quite as good as Keith Whitley’s version from the year before. “High Weeds and Rust”, my least favorite song here, was later covered by its songwriter David Lee Murphy. Producer Doug Johnson’s “We Always Agree On Love” isn’t quite as strong as the rest of the album, but I really liked Randy Boudreux’s “My Hat’s Off To Him” and “It’s A Good Thing I Don’t Love You Anymore” by Bobby P. Barker and Keith Palmer.

I was still in college when this album was released and it certainly does not seem like nearly a quarter of a century has passed since then. In listening to the album again, though, it’s age is sometimes betrayed by the electronic keyboard arrangements, which were considered cutting-edge at the time but seem quite dated today. Thankfully, producer Doug Johnson avoided being too heavy-handed with them, and they are not as intrusive as the keyboard arrangements on other records of the era. It is however, the album’s sole flaw, albeit a minor complaint overall. Albums this good were not uncommon in the early 90s, and thus were sometimes easy to take for granted. This one is especially worth dusting off and listening to again, particularly for those fans who have become disillusioned with the current state of mainstream country. Inexpensive copies of Doug Stone are easy to find.

Grade: A

4 responses to “Album Review: Doug Stone – ‘Doug Stone’

  1. Occasional Hope January 3, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    This is a great album.

  2. AndyTheDrifter January 3, 2014 at 7:30 pm

    Great review. I listened to this album for the first time on the recommendation of this review (although I was already familiar with most of the singles), and definitely agree with your assessment.

    “I’d Be Better Off in a Pine Box” is a timeless classic, and the other singles aren’t far behind. I know it’s a bit sappy and the production is awfully poppy, but I can’t help but singing along to “In a Different Light.” Along with “Why Didn’t I Think of That”, it was the only Doug Stone I heard on the radio growing up, so it has a lot of nostalgic value to me.

    Among the non-singles, I particularly enjoyed “My Hat’s Off to Him” and “It’s a Good Thing I Don’t Love You Anymore.” The only songs that didn’t leave much of an impression on me were “We Always Agree on Love” and “High Weeds and Rust”, which weren’t bad, just forgettable. A fantastic debut overall.

  3. Paul W Dennis January 3, 2014 at 8:57 pm

    This is a great album – after this I would purchase all of Doug’s CDs for the next decade or so

  4. Robbie Baseball November 1, 2016 at 6:27 pm

    I threw this album on and then hit the Internet looking for album reviews…this site is superb so I thought I’d give some impressions. I owned this album on tape, ditched it in favor of CD, ditched that in favor of beer money in college, and re-bought it in adulthood. Throughout all that time, I thought an absolutely superb B-side cut was “Crying On Your Shoulder Again”, an ode to an “ole highway” upon which the character relies to help him forget about lost love. I grant you, the wordplay is a few furlongs short of clever, but the imagery is vivid enough that, living in rural New Jersey as a confused teenager with no car, walking on the road and thinking about lost love was pretty familiar. In a musical world where whiskey and pain have been replaced by tricked-out pickups, six-pack abs, ripped jeans, and every women looking like Daisy Duke, hearing Doug Stone’s pained country ballads is almost … refreshing. In 1990, I wasn’t nuts about this record. Now, I cherish it as a time capsule of when country music achieved that perfect balance between honky-tonk rebellion, sensitivity, commercial success, and a distinct lack of self-consciousness in the face of “cooler” popular culture.

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